If your family is like many others, there’s a certain level of…well…disagreement about how tidy to keep your house. It’s highly unusual to have every family member be on the exact same page when it comes to controlling clutter and organizing their stuff. Living in harmony with neatniks or messmeisters can be difficult for those in the other camp, but it isn’t impossible. You can negotiate a peace treaty by following a few simple steps.
- Stay Calm
Anxiety and stress can flare to dangerous levels when people feel out of their element. Neat people bristle when confronted by clutter and their messy counterparts feel confined by what they consider restrictive tidiness. Nagging is a common response when people don’t agree, but it usually creates the opposite reaction than expected. Rather than making a concerted effort to change their habits, those on the receiving end of endless complaints tend to be dismissive at best or defensive at their worst. They’ll dig in their heels and stubbornly refuse to bend. Ignoring the problem will only make things more difficult, so setting a time to discuss the issue calmly is the key to a compromise. It’s important to set group goals for your family when it comes to housekeeping. Make sure that during the discussion, everyone gets a chance to present his or her case. Listen carefully to everyone’s opinions and avoid placing blame.
- Dirty or Messy?
Make sure everyone in your family knows where messy ends and dirty begins. Dirty is NEVER acceptable, as dirt attracts bugs and other critters, can cause mold or unpleasant odors and stain valuable possessions. Visible dirt or mud, leftover food, grime and goo all fit into the dirty category and will not be tolerated. Messy includes clutter caused by items without a place to “live” or items put away in the wrong places. While many neat-natured people use the terms messy and dirty interchangeably, they’re really two different things. Make sure everyone in your family has a detailed definition of what is considered “dirty” and promises to take immediate action to eliminate dirt.
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Take pictures of what is considered clean and tidy for each room. While this may be the ideal, compromise on what would be allowed or not allowed in day to day life. Is it okay to have magazines or books on the end of the sofa, shoes beside your favorite chair or mail on the table? Once everyone agrees on what’s considered normal, keep track of your progress by dividing up responsibilities for each room and making cleaning checklists.
- Give a Pass on Personal Spaces
While common areas are open to everyone and respect for others’ wants and needs should be the rule, be more lenient with personal bedrooms, craft rooms, workout areas, garages, etc. While the “dirt” regulations should be followed by all in every space, vow to close the door and walk away from cluttered messes that don’t affect you directly.
- Claim Your Happy Place
Wherever and whatever it is, select one place in the house that becomes yours to oversee. Whether it’s Mom’s kitchen, Dad’s den, Betsy’s bookshelf or Tommy’s playroom, make your area your sanctuary to tidy or not tidy as you please. Keep this space exactly how you prefer it to look, and realize that the comfort you take in this place is matched by the level of contentment your other family members feel in their “happy place” and the way it looks.